Hypnotised individuals often experience agency alterations whereby their actions feel effortless. This has led researchers to develop functional models of psychopathology involving hypnotic suggestions for cognitive alterations, based on the features of clinical conditions. I will report a study in which hypnotic models of control delusions were used to alter participants’ sense of agency for automatic actions. Wegner et al. (2003) found that participants were unable to suppress correct answers in a trivia quiz when instructed to respond randomly. In a hypnotic adaptation, I gave participants suggestions based on alien control and thought insertion delusions as alternative strategies for responding in a trivia quiz. Thought insertion participants answered most questions correctly, but were unaware of doing so. Alien control participants were able to suppress correct responding and instead gave random answers. These results demonstrate that hypnosis can alter metacognitive awareness of actions and lead to changes in otherwise uncontrollable behaviours.
This talk will be part of the symposium Acting in a complex world - Emerging perspectives on human agency with Kathrina Schwartz, Roland Pfister, Nura Sidarus, Noham Wolpe, and Rob Van de Wel.